Salone News

Human Rights Watch Exposes AML

22 May 2014 at 16:35 | 2371 views

By Our Correspondent

US-based Human Rights Watch, one of the foremost global human rights organizations, came out recently with a damning report on the activities of African Minerals Limited, Sierra Leone’s biggest mining company whose top executives are the highly controversial Frank Timis and his Sierra Leonean sidekick Gibril Moseray Fadika. Both men have been accused of running a bottom-feeder racket in several African countries.

AML operates in the Tonkolili district, one of the least developed districts in the north of the country despite having natural resources like gold, iron ore and vast stretches of arable land. It is also the home of the country’s biggest hydro-electric dam, the Bumbuna Dam, that will be soon be in operation. However Tonkolili has experienced very little development since independence in 1961 due to political and other reasons.

The Human Rights Watch report, which has angered both the government in Freetown and the company says AML has "undermined villagers’ access to food and prevented workers from challenging abusive practices." The thrust of the report is on what HMW perceives as the company’s failure to take care of the interests of the local population, something AML has always denied. Many Sierra Leonean human rights and environmental organizations have also condemned AML in the past with little or no effect due to their low profile, biases and sometimes obvious or covert political leanings.

What is strange about this situation is that AML is yet to come out with a comprehensive rebuttal of the HMW report written and researched by HMW Deputy Director Rona Peligel. Most of the rebuttal has so far come from the media, the government and President Ernest Koroma himself. The President has backed the company, saying it’s operations are crucial for the government’s Agenda for Prosperity while commissioning, over the weekend, some brand new buildings constructed by AML at the port of Pepel in the Port Loko district, far away from the company’s mining operations in Tonkolili. Pepel port, near to the Lungi International airport, is where the iron ore mined in Tonkolili is brought by train and then taken to China by sea.

Curiously enough, AML has not done much infrastructural development in Tonkolili itself (there are certainly no buildings constructed in Tonkolili by AML even remotely resembling those in Pepel), thus lending credence to the contention of the people of Tonkolili that the company does not really care about them.

The Paramount Chief of the area where the company mines, Bockarie Koroma, has also vigorously denied that the company does not serve his people’s interests but admitted that environmental issues are a work in progress.

Read the Human Rights Watch report by clicking here.

AML’s Frank Timis

Frank Timis and Moseray Fadika. Seated, first from left, is Sierra Leone’s Mines and Mineral Resources Minister Minkailu Mansaray.